Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Product Reviews | Recipes | Home RSS

One Big Hunting Family

Four Generations of Hepfners Harvested Deer in 2016

June 1, 2017
By Ralph Scherder - OVO Field Editor , Ohio Valley Outdoors

The Hepfners are a close-knit family who loves the outdoors. That passion began in 1872 when Bob Hepfner Sr.'s great grandfather bought a 40-acre farm in Clarion County, PA. The property has been in the family ever since, and that's where Bob Sr. grew up and learned to hunt. That's also where he taught his own kids to hunt years later.

"I was 15 when I got my first deer," says Bob Sr. "The buck I got last year was the 60th buck of my hunting career." That buck was a dandy 11-point that was killed on the old homestead.

"There used to be an old house and woods and small fields when I was growing up," says Bob Sr., who recently turned 81. "It's mostly wire grass now, but the deer like to travel through. There's a creek down below that you can't see from the stand, but they use it to cross from one hillside to another. It's a good area, and that's where I got this buck."

Article Photos

The passion for hunting in the Hepfner family began in 1872 when Bob Hepfner Sr.’s great grandfather bought a 40-acre farm in Clarion County, PA. Today seven descendants continue that passion. Last fall all seven Hepfner’s (including four generations) harvested whitetail deer in either Ohio, Pennsylvania or West Virginia. Pictured are the Hepfner’s: (from left) Dan, Jon, Bobby, Robert, Jr. (seated), Bob, Sr., Don, and Dominic (Frazzini).

The 11-point came in to a grunt call and worked a branch that had scent on it. "I thought he was trying to wind me," says Bob Sr., "so I took the only shot I had, a neck shot. My grandson Jon killed a buck earlier in archery season with that shot and I thought I could do it, too. I just missed the windpipe, otherwise it would've been an easy tracking job. As it was, the buck ran quite a bit farther, but we still found it."

Bob Sr. relocated to Ohio many years ago and held an apprenticeship at a steel mill and then as a carpenter. He and his family are three-state hunters who enjoy deer hunting in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.

"My best memories are of hunting with the boys. And I hate to admit it," he says jokingly, "but Dan's the best hunter of the group."

Fact Box

As the years go by and the memories continue to pile up, it's their love for the outdoors that will always bring them together.

Dan owns 30 acres in Carroll County, OH, and has been hunting for 43 years. Although he didn't get his first deer until he was 16, he has killed 50 whitetail bucks since, including one of his best, also an 11-point, in 2016.

"I had a history with this deer," says Dan, 57. "I like putting out trail cameras after the Ohio muzzleloader season to see what's left for next year, and in January 2015, I got a picture of a big 9-point. There were only two days left in the late bow season when a string of nine deer were coming in to my corn pile. The 9-point was one of them."

Instead of coming into the corn, though, the first two deer stopped short. They circled the stand, milled around awhile, but never committed to the bait. When they finally left, the 9-point went with them.

"I didn't see him the next year at all," says Dan, "but on December 3rd, 2016, I started getting pictures of him again."

A week later, with snow on the ground, the buck came into Dan's stand and offered a 15-yard shot. The arrow passed clear through, but there was nothing but some faint residue on the fletching and shaft, no blood. After a day or two or searching for the deer without a blood trail, Dan gave up.

"All I had to do was go back farther on the property and I probably would've found it," says Dan. "It ran a total of about 250 yards from where I'd hit it."

Unfortunately, coyotes and an eagle found the deer first. The neighboring landowner found it soon after and sawed off the antlers. After explaining the situation, though, the landowner gave the antlers to Dan.

The Hepfner hunting crew also includes Dan's brothers, Bob Jr. and Don, as well as Bob Jr.'s sons, Jon and Bobby. A recent addition has been Dan's grandson Dominic, 12, who killed his first buck, an 8-point, last fall.

Bobby, 31, also killed his first buck in 2016, which was his first year of hunting. "My dad and brother pressured me to hunt but I never had any interest," says Bobby. "I never cared about hunting all this time until last Easter when everyone said I should hunt with them in West Virginia. They asked my wife if I could go and she was all gung-ho about it. She's really into organic foods, so what's more organic than venison. That's actually the main reason I went hunting. Once I was committed to going, though, I was really psyched up about it."

His first day, Bobby shot a doe, and his second day he killed a nice 8-point. "Now I have a freezer full of organic meat," he says.

Don Hepfner didn't start hunting until he was 44. Now 56, he says his biggest regret is that he didn't listen to his brothers, Bob Jr. and Dan, and start hunting earlier in life. "For me, it's really therapeutic," he says. "You're out there away from the office. You don't have to listen to the phone ring or deal with clients."

His first year, Don sat with his dad in West Virginia. "Early in the morning we saw this buck coming off the hill. It must've had a death wish because it came straight toward us. My gun was wavering all over the place as I tried to get it in the scope, and all I could hear was my dad in my ear saying, 'Shoot, Don, shoot, shoot!' We pulled the trigger almost simultaneously and the deer went down. Being the consummate father, he asked, 'Well, where were you aiming?' I said, 'Right behind the shoulder.' He said, 'Looks like that's where you hit it. I must've missed.'

"We both knew he got it, although he kept telling everyone that I did. The following year I got my first real buck on my own, a 3-point. That helped me get the bug. I hope that eventually my son will come around and start hunting too."

"We always help each other putting our stands up or getting deer out of the woods," says Dan. "Just like this year, Jon already had a deer and went to help his brother Bobby and my brother Don gut and drag their deer. We always help clear shooting lanes for each other, look at spots together. The more heads you put together the better. We always ask each other what we think of spots."

This team mentality is especially evident when it comes to helping Bob Jr. get into the woods. Bob Jr. was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005. He has endured several back surgeries and is wheelchair-bound, but that doesn't seem to cut into his hunting time. With the help of his family, Bob Jr. still kills a buck almost every year. In fact, Bob Jr. has taken 40 whitetail bucks in his lifetime.

"I got my son involved early, around 12 years old, and let him shoot a doe," says Bob Jr. of his son Jon. "Deep down, I thought when he got older he'd help me. That's what I was hoping. Nowadays, he's the one who pushes me to go out."

Jon, 33, remembers his first really nice buck, an 11-point he killed in West Virginia. "My grandpa heard the shots and came over. When he saw the buck, he said, 'It's a shame you shot something so nice because you'll probably never get another one like it.'

"Once I got into bowhunting it was laser beam focus," says Jon. "After that I kind of got on a roll and started getting bucks every year. But honestly, I get just as much satisfaction from seeing my dad get one. He has a lot of passion to keep going."

In fact, all the Hepfners have a lot of passion to keep hunting. As the years go by and the memories continue to pile up, it's their love for the outdoors that will always bring them together.

Editor's note: This article originally ran in the 2017 Summer issue of OVO. See more photographs of all the Hepfner family members with their 2016 harvests.



I am looking for:
News, Blogs & Events Web